Anyone who has been in a serious car crash knows that the experience can be devastating. Medical bills pile up, and as the victim is too hurt to work, there is no money coming in to pay them. Meanwhile, the pain and suffering is so intense that it’s impossible to pursue normal activities. Given all these issues, many victims understandably think that it may be best to accept the insurance company’s settlement offer. After all, they reason, that’s one way to put all this mess behind them. But they just aren’t sure. At Russell & Lazarus, APC, our Orange County personal injury lawyers stand up for injured victims both in and out of court. Part of that mission involves giving you the information you need to make good choices during this trying time.
What Is Personal Injury Law?
We all make mistakes, and we are all accountable for the hard that those mistakes cause. That simple principle is the essence of personal injury law.
Specifically, personal injury laws exist to provide compensation to victims for their:
- Economic losses, such as medical bills and lost wages, as well as their
- Noneconomic losses, including pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment in life.
In some extreme cases, additional punitive damages are available as well.
Every year, about 18,000 area residents are seriously hurt in car crashes, so most of the cases that Orange County personal injury lawyers handle involve car wrecks. Our attorneys also deal with other types of injuries, including:
- Animal attacks,
- Slip and fall injuries,
- Swimming pool drowning,
- Motorcycle accidents, and
- Nursing home abuse, whether such acts are physical, financial, or emotional.
To obtain damages in these cases, Orange County personal injury lawyers must establish negligence (a lack of ordinary care) by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not).
What Should I Do Right After a Car Accident?
Many people believe that they should call the insurance company in these situations. But insurance company phone operators are usually trained to extract damaging information from victims in subtle ways that they do not even notice. In other words, despite what commercials imply, these companies care almost nothing about people. However, they do care a lot about money. More on that in a minute.
Victims should pick up the phone after car accidents, but the call should be to experienced Orange County personal injury lawyers. At Russell & Lazarus, we start work on your claim straightaway and also refer you to a good doctor. This point leads into our next question, which is…
When Do I Need to See a Doctor?
Our society preaches self-reliance, so many victims think they should try to “tough it out” for at least a few days. They believe the insurance company will look favorably on the fact that they did not rush to the doctor.
But in fact, the opposite is true. If you do not see a doctor within twenty-four hours, the insurance company usually argues that your injuries must not have been very bad. They use that observation as an excuse to deny medical bill payment.
Orange County personal injury lawyers can refer victims to an injury specialist who is accustomed to diagnosing and treating conditions that other doctor might miss, such as whiplash. Moreover, victims usually need not pay any money upfront in these situations.
How Do Orange County Personal Injury Lawyers Establish Negligence?
Before settlement negotiations begin in earnest, attorneys must build cases with solid evidence and compelling legal arguments. The evidence consists of old-fashioned items, such as witness statements and damage photographs, as well as electronic evidence, such as the Event Data Recorder. This device is similar to a commercial airplane’s black box.
The legal theory is usually one of these two items:
- Negligence: If the tortfeasor (negligent driver) owed a legal duty to the victim, the tortfeasor violated that duty, and that violation caused damages, the tortfeasor is liable.
- Negligence Per Se: If the tortfeasor violated a safety law, such as DUI or a leash law, and that violation caused injury, the tortfeasor is liable as a matter of law.
Other theories include strict liability, which mostly involves defective products, and intentional torts, such as arson or assault.
What Is the Lawsuit Process?
One final myth is that these damage claims settle quickly for lots of money. That’s not entirely untrue, as most cases settle out of court and compensation is often substantial. But in most cases, there is no quick settlement. Medical treatment must be substantially complete before Orange County personal injury lawyers can accurately determine a case’s settlement value. Settling too quickly benefits the rich insurance companies at the expense of victims.
Sometimes, cases settle without filing legal claims. But in most cases, such paperwork must be filed within two years after the accident. Next, during the discovery process, you may have to attend depositions and submit to medical exams. Thereafter, the two sides negotiate to try and resolve the case. If no resolution is forthcoming, there is a trial.
Contact Orange County Personal Injury Lawyers
At Russell & Lazarus APC, we are committed to answering your questions and fighting to protect your interests. Contact us today to speak to experienced Orange County personal injury lawyers who can help.